• Carmen Marie Fabio

Power lunch

Years of traipsing around various events with three little boys in tow has taught hubby and I a thing or two about how to mitigate the high price tag associated with feeding a family of five while away from the house. Not easy but doable if you’re prepared to be a little creative.

Of course, bringing your own sandwiches along is a no-brainer until you encounter the amusement park attendee who tells you outside food isn’t allowed inside the park and you’ll have to rent a locker to check your cooler. At which point you say, “No problem,” check in an empty cooler and hide your picnic lunch in the diaper bag. No teenager making minimum wage at an amusement park is gonna go above and beyond his or her pay scale to earn points from a disengaged manager whose mandate it is to sell overpriced pizza and soda.

On the requisite Canadian pilgrimage to Niagara Falls about 15 years ago, we stayed at a hotel that offered a breakfast buffet. Now, these good people just didn’t understand who they were dealing with. We started the day with pancakes, French toast, sausage, potato hash browns and toast to top it off. We also managed to grab a bunch of apples to bring along on our day of exploration. The carb-loading worked so well, none of us were hungry until supper time. When we looked at possibly returning there a few summers later, we noticed the breakfast buffet was no longer available. Huh.

At a more recent excursion to New York City, we made many a meal from the myriad food carts, pay-by-weight delis, and – the best deal of all – a-buck-a-slice pizzeria counters. It wasn’t necessarily pretty but we’re more about cheap and tasty anyway.

I don’t sneak popcorn into movies. That just seems difficult. But a friend of my eldest son regularly stops by the dollar store next to the cinema to load up on M&Ms, Gummy Bears and Peanut Butter Cups at roughly 1/5 the concession stand cost.

We’re planning another family outing next week to attend the Global Climate Strike in Montreal on September 27 which is expected to be large enough that many school boards, colleges, and universities are closing for the day in anticipation of nobody showing up for class. Not limited to young students, community groups, healthcare workers and even labour unions are calling on the public to take part to draw attention to the lack of concrete political policies on climate change.

So, what to eat when you’re in a mob of tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of people carrying signs and chanting for change? Sandwiches, granola bars, refillable water bottles, and apples. Make sure you’re wearing good shoes. If you have room, pack some extra socks – at the last student protest, my son’s feet got soaked.

This is expected to be a peaceful congregation unlike the political pro-democracy protests currently underway in Hong Kong. But just in case, it bears mentioning that you can easily make a concoction to counteract tear gas or pepper spray by mixing a one-to-one ratio of water and antacid in a spray bottle.

It always pays to be prepared and just a little creative.